HR professionals are essential to the success of new technology now that highly skilled staff are calling the shot, delegates heard.
Baudouin Prot, director general of the bank BNP Paribas, said the more an organisation advances its technology, the greater its need for quality HR in areas such as incentives and training.
Prot was discussing the issue of HR and new technology in front of an audience of some 2,000 delegates with fellow speakers Frederico Castellanos, IBM HR vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Towers Perrins human resources management principal Hugh Shanks.
Castellanos told delegates new technology simply intensified the need for HR. He said it was meaningless if the people operating it fail to match customer expectations. And he stressed that it would not mean any less face to face contact with the customer.
He said, "The world is becoming so interdependent you need people who are able to keep alive the huge network of contacts and people who are very good at influencing other people.
"In terms of finding the right people, anything goes, it is a real fight, especially with new skills that are at the leading edge of technology.
"The problem is skills you need today you don't necessarily need tomorrow and the disturbing thing is that I have no idea what I will need in ten years from now."
Shanks said one of the biggest challenges facing HR is how to maintain the culture of a business when a growing number of employees are working from home via the Internet and changing jobs frequently.
He said, "There is more movement between companies now, 1999 was a record year for redundancy in the US. The average 32 year-old American has worked for nine firms.
"People with skills are moving around a lot. Power is moving to employees, at least those with marketable skills."